Tag Archives: winter food

An Abundance Of Lemons And How To Preserve Them

 

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One of the first things that drew me to the house we have lived in for the past couple of years were the two lemon trees growing in the back yard. This is not entirely unusual for Sydney, yet to find a sunny back yard that had TWO established lemon trees was a bonus. It not only appealed to my culinary side, but also helped me feel a tiny step closer to my long-term dream of living on a property where we will one day grow, pick, and eat our own food (I did say long-term right?)…

As much as the flavour of lemons are reminiscent of summer, my trees bare their fruit in winter. This means each year I have an abundance of fruit to use, and I inevitably end up preserving more than a handful of jars of lemons to extend their shelf life.

Lemons are the citrus of choice for most cooks; I certainly would be at a loss without them in my kitchen. And although I love to preserve them I use them in all manner of cooking. 

When I use their pungent zest in cakes, or dressings,or marinades, I delight in the fact that their skin, let alone juice, has so much flavour to offer. Having home-grown lemons means no wax ( it drives me crazy that the shop-bought lemons are coated in a thin layer of wax, why do they have to do this!). Wax-free lemons should be available to all. It’s unadulterated zest, the best of its kind.

The juice of lemons can be a cooks best friend in the kitchen, and as a rule of thumb, keeping one or two in the fruit bowl will enhance all manner of dishes. Again, the juice is excellent in marinades, especially for chicken. Green tahini dressing is lifted to new heights, and even just a small squeeze of the pale yellow liquid will enhance soups, stews, or any slow cooked meats.

 

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Preserving lemons is very simple. The preparation is next to nothing: it’s the preserving that takes time; I leave mine at least six weeks and up to several months. The salt and juice slowly break down and soften the flesh whilst also mellowing the flavour, and this process just can’t be hurried.

As with all of the above ways of using fresh lemons, preserved lemons can be applied in much the same manner.

Check out this chermoula recipe for marinating and roasting on a chicken, or these lamb skewers  perfect for barbecuing.

I usually use a few 750ml parfait jars with working seals on them, but I also utilise large glass jars that I’ve washed and stored exactly for this reason.

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Preserved lemons

Makes 3-4 jars

Ingredients

15 large juicy lemons (wax free if you can)

3/4 cup cooking salt

12 cardamon pods

3 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp whole  black pepper corns

First you need to sterilise the jars. Pre heat oven to 120C. Remove the rubber seal, wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse, place on a tray and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them there till you are ready to fill them.

Wash lemons. Take 10-12 of the lemons and cut in half. Slice through each half leaving 4cm of the top of the lemon un-cut. Squeeze the majority of the juice from each lemon and set the juice aside in a jug.

Juice the remaining 3-5 lemons, and add this to the reserved lemon juice. You should by this stage have about 3 cups of lemon juice.

Sprinkle the salt all over the cut lemons, rubbing it into the flesh. Take the sterilised jars from the oven and stuff each jar with lemons, press them in firmly to fill the jars. Divide the cardamon pods, coriander seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Then divide the lemon juice between the jars pouring it over the lemons. Top up each jar with boiling water so the lemons are completely covered.

Seal the lids and gently shake the jar several times to combine. Place lemons on a shelf in the pantry to preserve for about 6 weeks, or longer. Once you open a jar refrigerate the contents for up to 2 months.

Chicken, Kale And Lemon Soup

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I make and freeze soups all the time.

During these colder months of the year, when I’m cooking a different pot of soup each week, I portion the left overs into small individual serves and have them on hand in the freezer for when I need good food fast.

At the moment I have a decent but small crop of kale growing in my urban garden, (it loves this cold weather) and this chicken and kale soup is a perfect way of using it up.

 

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I steered clear of potato as a thickener in this soup, instead, short grain risoni pasta is used to add body to the stock and a smoothness to the soup that I find irresistible.

A free range chicken will give the best results here. The stock will be flavoured from its bones and the chicken is then shredded and added back to the pureed soup.

Of course, as with all kale, there is a slight bitterness here that is then accentuated from the lemon, but this too is part of the charm of this particular soup. And with the help of the sour cream and brown sugar the queen of greens flavour is smoothed out, and a silky soup is left in its place.

 

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Kale, chicken and lemon soup

Ingredients 

1 bunch kale

2 medium brown onions, diced

2 large sticks celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

1 tbsp chopped thyme

1.5kg free range whole chicken

1 whole lemon – wax free if you can

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

white pepper

Sea salt

2/3 cup risoni pasta

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

To serve

Chopped parsley

Extra virgin olive oil

Wash the kale and trim away the inner woody stalk. Shred into thin pieces.

Place the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, chicken and the lemon in a large pot, add the chicken stock and add 2 litres of cold water, gently bring to the boil.

Skim off any impurities that bubble to the top, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken and the lemon, and set aside to cool slightly.

Place the soup back on the heat, bring back to the boil, add the shredded kale and risoni pasta, and cook on a rapid heat for 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze and strain the juices into the soup. Add the brown sugar and sour cream and puree the soup till smooth. Check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, discard the skin from the chicken and shred the flesh into thin pieces.

Once the soup is blended and seasoned to your liking, add the shredded chicken back to it, warm it through and ladle into bowls. Garnish the soup with chopped parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Baked Rhubarb With Orange And Cloves

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Although rhubarb is readily available through autumn it’s often not till early winter that I get round to baking my first tray.

I keep it on hand in the fridge mainly to eat with breakfast, be it with porridge, yoghurt, or muesli. But it would be a crime against rhubarb to stop there. It’s such an interesting fruit to use in baking, that when I do have cooked rhubarb in the fridge, I often feel compelled to bake.

Sometimes I arrange batons of rhubarb across a butter milk cake – before it goes in the oven – or I fold it through and on top of muffins, and have even been known to layer it in the bottom of creme brûlées.

 

 

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The tartness of rhubarb is its defining appeal. And that tartness requires a certain amount of sweetness to tame its sour taste and soften its flavour. I use orange juice, brown sugar and cloves to do this.

As the rhubarb slowly cooks, covered in the oven, it half steams half poaches itself to tender pieces. When cooked just right rhubarb should hold its shape easily, yet still fall apart at the touch of a spoon.

So next time you’re out shopping and you see rhubarbs bright red stalks staring back at you, reach out, grab a bunch, come home, flick the oven on, and you too can discover the many possibilities with baked rhubarb.

 

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Baked rhubarb with orange and cloves

Ingredients 

1 bunch thick stemmed rhubarb

zest 1/2 an orange

1 orange juiced

1/4 cup brown sugar

8 cloves

Pre heat oven to 160C.

Trim the rhubarb of all its leaves, wash and cut into 6 cm lengths.

Lay the rhubarb neatly in a small baking tray.

Place the orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar and cloves in a small pan, stir over a medium heat till sugar dissolves, then pour the liquid over the rhubarb. Cover the tray tightly with foil and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes for thicker stalked rhubarb, less for thinner rhubarb.

Cool completely in the tray before transferring the rhubarb to a container, cover and store the rhubarb in the cooking syrup in the fridge for up to five days.

Slow cooked osso buco

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There’s no tricky technique involved when cooking osso buco. The steps are simple, the cooking is long and slow, and the end result is succulent meat that falls off the bone.

 

Osso bucco means bone with hole, and refers to the “cut of meat” used for this popular Italian dish. Thick slices are cut through the shinbone of veal or beef. I’ve used the more traditional veal in my recipe but have also cooked it with beef, which is just as delicious and a cheaper option to veal.

The combination of meat and bone means deep, rich flavours develop in the sauce. White wine can be substituted for the more robust red and two tins of crushed tomatoes will do the job if you don’t have passata (passata is also known as sugo, it’s a smooth, pureed tomato sauce). I’ve used rosemary and bay leaves for my herbs but feel free to substitute with fresh thyme or even fresh oregano.

 

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Although there’s rarely left overs from this dish, on the odd occasion that there are, osso buco makes a wonderful pasta sauce the next day. Pick the meat from the bone and slice into chunks and re heat in the sauce with a dash of water. Cook your favourite pasta shape to al dente and toss with the osso buco sauce.

For those of us in the middle of winter, I say ” turn the oven on, get a pot of osso buco cooking, and sit back and await the joy that is slow cooking”

 

Veal osso buco

 Ingredients

8 x pieces of veal osso buco

Plain flour to dust

Olive oil

6 French shallots (or 1 large red onion diced)

6 cloves garlic, halved

3 carrots

3 large sprigs rosemary

3 fresh bay leaves

1 cup red wine

1 x 700g bottle of tomato passata

1 cup beef stock

To serve

Mash potato

Steamed peas

 

Pre heat oven to 150C or 130C fan forced. Season veal with salt and pepper then lightly dust veal with flour. Heat an oven proof casserole dish with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Seal veal in two batches till lightly coloured on all sides. Set veal aside on a tray.

Use the same pot with out washing it, heat 1 tbsp oil, add shallots, carrots, and garlic. Cook gently for 2 minutes. Add red wine, rosemary and bay leaves and reduce for 2 minutes.

Add beef stock, tomato passata and a large pinch of black pepper. Return veal to pan and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid, place in the oven and cook for 2 hours.

Serve osso bucco with mash potato and steamed peas.